Tag Archive for: Mac Swiney

Hurricane Lane leads Appleby hopes of second Derby triumph

Charlie Appleby is spearheading the challenge to outdo big-race favourite Bolshoi Ballet as he sends three contenders in pursuit of Cazoo Derby glory.

While Aidan O’Brien relies on his sole heavyweight representative from six possibles for the Classic at the start of the week, Appleby’s Godolphin team numbers Hurricane Lane, One Ruler and Adayar at Epsom on Saturday.

They are among a clutch of worthy opponents to Ballydoyle’s Bolshoi Ballet – including Jim Bolger’s Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Mac Swiney, as well as the remainder of the Newmarket challenge, William Haggas’ Mohaafeth, Ed Dunlop’s John Leeper and Third Realm from Roger Varian’s yard.

Appleby’s unbeaten Dante Stakes winner Hurricane Lane is the choice of number one jockey William Buick, as the partnership bid for a second win in the blue riband after Masar in 2018. One Ruler, who was sixth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last month, will be ridden by James Doyle, with Adam Kirby on Adayar.

Appleby said: “One Ruler has solid Group One two-year-old form and is a Group Three winner at two as well in winning the Autumn Stakes, which is a great race to have coming into a three-year-old career.

“Hurricane Lane, on the other hand, had one run on bottomless ground at the back end of last year at Newmarket. He then came out and did what he did at Newbury before going to York. He comes here as an unexposed horse. He wouldn’t have the natural pace of One Ruler.

“As we saw in the Dante, his best work was in the last couple of hundred yards. Everything bodes well to step him up to a mile and a half – it might bring about further improvement.”

One Ruler is, of course, also trying the Derby trip for the first time.

Appleby added: “One Ruler is a different horse when he comes to the track – he just lights up more.

“James said, although it was quick in the Guineas, he rode like a horse that would appreciate stepping up in trip.

One Ruler is among Charlie Appleby's three Derby contenders
One Ruler is among Charlie Appleby’s three Derby contenders (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“The trip is a big question mark, (but) if he is going to get a mile and a half, he has got a good chance of getting it around Epsom.”

Bolger has always been confident Mac Swiney can run right up to his best form on good ground – but Friday’s unexpected rain has eased conditions considerably in any case.

A literal reading of Mac Swiney’s career record could indicate an aptitude for very testing conditions.

He got the better of stablemate and Newmarket Guineas winner Poetic Flare in a driving finish on soft to heavy ground at the Curragh last month, but must overturn Derrinstown Derby Trial form with Bolshoi Ballet.

He will be outdoing even his brilliant sire New Approach’s Classic achievements if he adds Epsom success to his Curragh victory – because he had to settle for second in both the English and Irish Guineas before winning the 2008 Derby for Bolger.

The Coolcullen trainer reports his colt ready to run up to his best, following his hard-fought victory two weeks ago, irrespective of the ground.

“You know how well he was a couple of weeks ago, and he came out of that race very well – and he’s been fine since,” he said.

“All his best form has not been on heavy ground.

“I wouldn’t like any firm in it (this weekend) – but then I don’t like firm for any of my horses.”

Bolger is unconcerned too by either the move up in trip or the unusual situation of a one-horse Ballydoyle team.

Mac Swiney was below his best on his last meeting with Bolshoi Ballet when beaten almost seven lengths on good ground.

“Not being right when he was beaten (behind Bolshoi Ballet) at Leopardstown, that’s all been very well-documented,” said Bolger.

“(The extra distance) is not a concern.

“I’m training my own horse, and I’m not concerned with how many any (other) trainer runs in the race.”

Victory for John Leeper would be a fairytale outcome for a horse regally-bred out of Dunlop and owner Cristina Patino’s 2010 Oaks heroine Snow Fairy, named after the trainer’s father and to be ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Dunlop said: “It is probably one of the more interesting stories of the race.

“Having a horse named after my father is very exciting, and it creates a little bit of pressure for everyone – but at the moment the horse has no idea there is any pressure on him, so hopefully we can enjoy it.

“Of course it is quite emotional as well, and it would be a great day if he could go on and win the Derby.”

He is hoping that inexperience will not catch out John Leeper after just three career starts, and two wins this term – including most recently in a slowly-run Listed race at Newmarket.

“There was a bit of a concern with Newmarket, because it was such a farcical race that he just latched a bit earlier than we would have liked to – and it was something we had never really seen,” Dunlop said.

“I think he did well to win at Newmarket. William (Buick) was very good. He kicked on and got on with it.

“That was all part of his learning curve. He hasn’t done much wrong so far – but there is still a long way to go, as they say.

“We always liked him last year. He had a tiny hiccup after Doncaster last year, which meant we weren’t able to run him again. He was a very big, immature horse – so he was never going to do much as a two-year-old.

“We like him, and he was bred to be liked. Many of the well-bred horses don’t turn out to be much cop, but hopefully this horse will. You hoped he could get to this stage.

“We would have been disappointed if he hadn’t won his maiden, and he has now won his Listed race, but he has now got to step up markedly to be competitive in the Derby.

“The trip should be up his street, because his mum won the Oaks – I’d be surprised if there was any problem with the trip.

Mohaafeth has been a revelation this spring, with three increasingly emphatic victories.

The rain will not have helped his cause, and it is possible his participation may depend on no further deterioration. But Haggas is not fazed at least that the Shadwell Estate-owned colt has a draw towards the inside.

“There’s not a lot I can do about the draw (stall four) – it is what it is,” he said.

“That’s for the jockey to work out.

“When we bought him as a yearling, he was our ‘Derby’ horse in big inverted commas. When he went to Lingfield in March (for a novice, first time out, after two defeats last year) I didn’t think he was our Derby horse.

Mohaafeth was a easy winner at Newmarket
Mohaafeth was an easy winner at Newmarket (John Walton/PA)

“But I thought he could be an Ascot horse, and it was really that effort in the Newmarket Stakes that appealed to everyone and brought him into focus.

“He’s got a chance of staying the trip. I’ve always felt it’s not a question of seeing it out, but more if they are going to improve.

“Whether he’s going to end up being better at a mile and a half than 10 furlongs, I’m not so sure, but there’s no better race to find out. We’re very keen to give it a go.

“He could be flattered or he could be improving quite quickly. There’s no greater race than the Derby – whether he’s up to it we’ll find out, but he was visually very impressive at Newmarket.

“The handicapper’s view was that it was impressive, and he stuffed him up 19lb. So we’ll see, but he needs to be 120 to win the Derby.”

Third Realm put in a notably professional performance to beat Adayar on only his third start in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

Varian said: “He’s not a big horse – he’s a small-to-medium colt. He’s very well balanced, he’s got gate speed and I’m quite confident he’s going to get the trip.

“We always liked him. He had a setback in May or June last year – otherwise he could have easily run at the back-end of the summer.

“We had to wait, and he only had the one start in November, but he did very well through the winter – he thrived in January, February and March.

“We had him earmarked for a Derby trial, and we’re obviously delighted with how he’s progressed over the last two months.”

Third Realm has the evident disadvantage of being drawn in stall two – but so too was Varian’s sole previous Derby runner, 2012 runner-up Kingston Hill.

“He’s versatile (tactically),” the trainer added, of Third Realm.

“He’s got gate speed, he can relax in behind horses and has shown a turn of foot. He’s pretty straightforward, and I think he’s the type of horse Andrea (Atzeni) could put anywhere – which is comforting, going into a race like this.

“The Derby is always a test of horses, because it comes early in the season, but I think he’s shown his worth – he deserves to be in the line-up.”

Gear Up must improve from his performance in the Dante Stakes
Gear Up must improve from his performance in the Dante Stakes (David Davies/PA)

Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer of Gear Up, retains faith too – despite an underwhelming return when only fifth in the Dante.

“It was not a bad run, but it was not a particularly good run – it was just OK,” he said.

“I thought he was in a reasonably good pitch, and I would have not swapped him three furlongs out. I thought of those chasing the leaders he looked the most likely at that point.

“The eventual first and second had another gear than him from two out, and he plugged on at one pace at the finish. He is sure to be better over an extra two furlongs.”

Andrew Balding’s Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit is bidding to go one better than the yard’s Khalifa Sat did when a 50-1 runner-up, in the same colours, 12 months ago.

The Kingsclere trainer said: “We always liked the horse, and it was a relief that he stayed the mile and a half at Chester well – because that was the one big question mark.

“He is one of the few in the field we know will get the trip, and that has got to be to his advantage in a very deep race that will take some winning.

“It would be lovely if we could go one better than last year – but the owner, trainer and jockey would be very satisfied with a podium finish.”

Monday Musings: The Genius of Jim

It’s Sunday morning in the breakfast room of Glebe House, Coolcullen, Co Carlow, writes Tony Stafford. Ranged around the kitchen table are trainer Jim Bolger, wife Jackie, daughter Una Manning, grand-daughter Clare Manning, who runs the family’s Boherguy stud, and two jockeys. Stable jockey and the Bolgers’ son-in-law Kevin Manning has been a fixture here for decades but a young interloper is an honoured guest.

It’s the morning after Jim Bolger’s historic first victory in the Irish 2,000 Guineas with Mac Swiney, but not just that, he also provided the short-head second, Poetic Flare, more than three lengths clear of the third, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Van Gogh.

The interloper is young winning rider Rory Cleary, who edged out the main man in a thrilling private duel between two colts whose breeding had all been an act of JSB.

The atmosphere around the table is rather tenser, though, than you might have imagined after a long-awaited Classic success. Then Jim began.

“Now do you remember when we talked about the race yesterday morning I told you what I wanted you to do?” said Jim.  “Rory, I told you to make the running as Mac Swiney is our Derby horse so the better stayer and Kevin, you were to join him on the line. Obviously Poetic Flare, as the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas winner is more the miler of them and after failing to follow up in France last Sunday, we needed you to make amends here!”, said Jim.

“How could you get it so wrong? Rory, either you were just a little too forceful on the run to the line – you hit him eight times rather than the permitted seven after all and got that ban - or Kevin, you couldn’t keep Poetic Flare straight in the finish. That result cost us a second Classic winner in one day!” added the trainer.

Then I woke up!

The alchemist of Irish racing had just pulled two rabbits out of the same hat. Has ever a Classic been decided by a dead-heat where every being, human or equine – save Rory Cleary, and even he’d been fashioned in the manner of Aidan O’Brien, Tony McCoy, Willie Mullins and so many more, in the Bolger hothouse – had been so minutely sculpted by one man?

The fact it was not a dead-heat, and make no mistake neither horse deserved to lose, was the only issue that stopped this result from transcending reality into fiction.

To describe Bolger’s unique status during a lifetime as trainer, owner and breeder as the supremo of an Academy doesn’t go anywhere near to covering it. It’s been more like a multi-generational pattern of life based on hard work, honesty and intuitive talent. Forty years ago he talked of an ambition to own all the horses in his stable. Even that apparently over-blown dream has proved to be much less than the surreal actuality.

He not only does – in the name of his wife Jackie - own almost all the horses in the yard, but breeds the majority too. He is the breeder of both the Guineas winners and, much more improbably, their respective sires, Derby winner New Approach (Mac Swiney) and that horse’s son Dawn Approach, sire of Poetic Flame, not to mention Teofilo, Mac Swiney’s broodmare sire.

To breed one unbeaten champion two-year-old in a lifetime would be beyond the dreams of most stud owners. To breed three, all of which won the Dewhurst Stakes to clinch their European juvenile championships and ensure their reputation, is something beyond comprehension.

Much was said of his genius in identifying Galileo as a sire to bank on when he first went to Coolmore following that horse’s epic career under Aidan O’Brien including his impressive Derby win. At the time Derby winners weren’t the most fashionable for stud careers – often being packed off to Japan or indeed ending up as jumps stallions, but Galileo was the exception.

Teofilo emerged from that first crop, running five times – all at seven furlongs – and only twice winning by more than a neck, and even then never by as much as two lengths. In two of the three narrow victories he rallied at the finish to regain the lead, a characteristic of both Saturday’s main protagonists.

He could not have proved more justified in his patronage of Galileo, but even for Jim Bolger, it is impossible to be right all the time.

I remember one day at Arqana’s Saint-Cloud sales seeking a stallion to cover one of Raymond Tooth’s mares asking David O’Loughlin which of Coolmore’s new sires might fit. He kindly pointed me in the direction of another of their Derby winners, the Andre Fabre-trained Pour Moi. He said: “Jim Bolger’s sending a load of mares to him.”

So we sent Laughing Water to Pour Moi and her son, Waterproof, did win a hurdle race on New Year’s Day last year but nothing else. Coolmore meanwhile did not waste much time diverting Pour Moi to their successful NH division despite his producing a Derby winner from his first crop in the shape of Wings Of Eagles.

From a €20k starting point, Pour Moi is now serving his mares having been banished for the last two covering seasons to the Haras de Cercy in France at €3,000 a pop. That’s less than 1% of what Galileo still commands as he approaches the twilight of the greatest stallion career of all time. From his starting point of €30k he will stand in historical terms at least on a par with his own sire Sadler’s Wells and that great horse’s father, the inimitable Northern Dancer.

Just as Bolger identified Galileo’s potential so did John Magnier all those years ago when with the assistance of Robert Sangster’s financial clout and Magnier’s father-in-law Vincent O’Brien’s training skills, they descended on Keeneland in Kentucky to cherry-pick the best of the Northern Dancers.

Again here was a champion and a Derby winner, despite in his case being very small. He missed out on the Triple Crown, finishing only third in the Belmont Stakes following victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but once sent to stud, he produced the English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky, trained by Vincent O’Brien from only his second crop.

That event guaranteed the future success of Northern Dancer, standing at Windfields Farm in Maryland, near Washington DC, initially for $10,000. It also galvanised the O’Brien/Sangster/ Magnier certainty that Northern Dancer should be the sire to concentrate on.  As well as Sadler’s Wells, the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner who did not contest the Derby, but became such a prepotent stallion winning 14 Champion Sire titles, 13 in succession, their shopping trips also brought back The Minstrel, one of the bravest winners of the Epsom Classic in memory.

If Jim Bolger was the biggest star on Irish 2,000 Guineas Day 2021, David O’Loughlin, or rather his wife Treasa, and also the wives of fellow Coolmore senior executives Tom Gaffney and Clem Murphy, won the Group 3 Marble Hill Stakes for two-year-olds with Castle Star, trained by Fozzy Stack.

Magnier has always encouraged his most valued employees to own, breed and above all cash in on the potential of horses and no doubt the trio (and their wives of course) will be hearing plenty of offers for this very stylish winner by Starspangledbanner, who has returned from the ignominy of infertility to a full part in the Coolmore story.

Last week I mentioned Sam Sangster, son of Sadler’s Wells and The Minstrel’s owner among many other Vincent O’Brien stars, for his own exploits with a filly called Beauty Stone. The daughter of Australia, originally a 475,000gns Godolphin buy, but a Sangster acquisition for barely 1% of that when culled from the Charlie Appleby team, made it four wins in a row at Goodwood on Saturday.

Running off 77, 15lb higher than when she started her winning run as recently as February at Kempton, the Tom Ward-trained filly battled on well to defeat 0-90 opposition. Black type could be next for Beauty Stone and no doubt young Mr Sangster will know how to handle the experience and also her future marketing which will involve rather more figures than those he paid for her. It’s all a matter of breeding as Jim Bolger will tell you. Nice kitchen by the way!

Mac Swiney all systems go for the Derby – and Ascot beckons for Poetic Flare

Jim Bolger is looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season has in store for Mac Swiney and Poetic Flare after the stablemates provided him him with a one-two in Saturday’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Having rounded off his juvenile campaign with a Group One success in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster, Mac Swiney finished a slightly disappointing fourth on his reappearance in the in Leopardstown’s Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

However, he raised his game to land Classic glory at the Curragh – coming out on top after a thrilling duel with Poetic Flare, who was running in his third Guineas in the space of four weeks after triumphing at Newmarket and finishing sixth in France last weekend.

Speaking on Racing TV’s Luck on Sunday programme, Bolger said of Mac Swiney: “As they say in the west of Ireland, I was mighty impressed with him.

“I thought that he stuck to the task really well – any horse wishing to take him on and beat him in the future will have to be up for it because he isn’t going to give in easily.

“I’m very fortunate that the two talented three-year-olds colts I have at the moment both have great temperaments and they can take anything that I throw at them.

“They’re only different in the amount of work that they take. Mac Swiney takes very little work, whereas the other fella takes an awful lot of work, which is why I felt he would stand up to the three Guineas.”

Rory Cleary celebrates on board Mac Swiney
Rory Cleary celebrates on board Mac Swiney (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mac Swiney will now bid to emulate his sire New Approach by winning the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on June 5, for which he is a general 7-1 shot.

“I’m the world’s worst punter, so asking me what price he should be wouldn’t get a very knowledgeable answer,” Bolger added.

“In my mind there isn’t anything ahead of him – the form is there now.”

The Coolcullen handler feels Poetic Flare could have been a triple Guineas winner in different circumstances.

He came close to completing a similar treble in 2007 with Finsceal Beo, who won at Newmarket, was beaten a head in the French 1000 Guineas and won the Irish equivalent.

Bolger said: “The three Guineas came about the year I had Finsceal Beo. In the end it was a few showers of rain in France that cost us the French Guineas, otherwise we would have had all three.

“We realised this (Poetic Flare) was a very talented horse with a lot of durability about him. He’s tough and he could take it.

“Apart from a few things we got wrong in France and then beating him ourselves with a different horse, we could have had the three, so it is possible.

“With a little different circumstance he could be the winner of three Guineas today and that would be fairly unique.

Poetic Flare after winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket
Poetic Flare after winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket (John Walton/PA)

“I said earlier in the week that whatever beat Poetic Flare would win the race. It’s not often I’m right, but I was right on that occasion!”

Asked whether Poetic Flare will run in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot next, he added: “I’d say there’s a good chance that he will. It depends how he gets on in the meantime, but I’d say he’s more likely to turn up there than not.

“I’d say he’ll stay at a mile. The only thing that might cause us to divert from that would be the Eclipse at Sandown, but then I have to keep that in mind for Mac Swiney as well.”

Mac Swiney leads home Irish Guineas one-two for Jim Bolger

Jim Bolger dominated the finish of the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh with Mac Swiney just edging out stable companion Poetic Flare.

Mac Swiney, a Group One winner at two, had disappointed on his return to action in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, but was subsequently found to be suffering from a nasal discharge.

Poetic Flare was already running in his third Classic of the season, having won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket before finishing only sixth in the French version just six days ago.

The race was run in a heavy rain shower as Rory Cleary, riding by far the biggest winner of his career, set out to make all on Mac Swiney and his rivals dropped away one by one.

Only stablemate Poetic Flare put up a challenge and Kevin Manning looked to be travelling marginally the better.

However, just when Manning began to ask his mount for everything, Poetic Flare hung across the track slightly, eventually being beaten a short head in the 100th running of the Classic. Van Gogh stayed on to be third.

Coral cut Mac Swiney to 7-1 from 20s for the Cazoo Derby next month.

Bolger was not at the track, but his daughter Una Manning confirmed Epsom is the target for the winner.

She said: “I just spoke to the boss and obviously he’s absolutely delighted with the horse and very pleased with Poetic Flare as well.

“I’d say it was probably a race for horses that stay the mile well with the conditions.

“The plan is to go to Epsom with Mac Swiney and we’ll see how Poetic Flare comes out of the race before deciding whether he’ll go to Ascot for the St James Palace.”

Manning, who is married to the rider of the runner-up, hailed her father’s decision to run both colts at the Curragh.

She added: “He’s not afraid to take on a challenge. He was talking about running the two horses and I said ‘wouldn’t it be great if Poetic Flare won and Mac Swiney was second and then went to Epsom and did a New Approach’.

“It ended up the other way around. I myself am a little disappointed for Kevin that he wasn’t on the winner, but on the other hand Rory has been such a loyal second jockey in the yard for so many years that he very much deserves this win.

“I think Kevin was happy enough to ride Poetic Flare. He said to me last week, after Longchamp, maybe we should just run the two of them in the Guineas and it would leave Mac Swiney right for Epsom.

“We’ve always had faith in Mac Swiney. He wasn’t quite himself at Leopardstown, but that does happen with horses and nowadays we all know about the mucus because we can scope them, so it’s different to years ago when you wouldn’t know.”

The winner is named after the Irish playwright, author and politician Terence MacSwiney and Manning added: “This is Rory’s day and Mac Swiney’s day and Terence MacSwiney’s memory will live on for another while.”

Rory Cleary celebrates aboard Mac Swiney
Rory Cleary celebrates aboard Mac Swiney (Brian Lawless/PA)

Cleary was thrilled to have landed an Irish Classic, but admitted he was struggling to register his achievement.

He said: “I still can’t believe it. I was quietly nervous about having to ride him. I’ve never ridden a fancied horse in it – in a big race – never mind a Classic.

“He’s such a special horse to get a ride on. The boss this morning just told me to jump out good and smart and ride a race on him and see how it unfolds.

“The further we went, the better he was going under me, and he stayed at it so well. I think the ground, with it being a bit on the wet side, his stamina really came into play.

“He’s so honest – I just can’t believe I’m after winning the Guineas.

“Kevin (Manning on Poetic Flare) came to me and we quickened away together again. I think they’re two very smart horses.

“My lad really just stuck his head out for me. I think somebody was looking down on me because they made it easy for me.”

There was a sting in the tail for the winning rider though, with Cleary getting a six-day suspension for excessive use of the whip.

Mac Swiney aiming to underline Classic claims in Derrinstown

A week on from teaming up to land the Qipco 2000 Guineas, Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning unleash another potential Classic contender at Leopardstown on Sunday when Mac Swiney returns to action for the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

The veteran trainer and jockey combination struck gold in a thrilling renewal of the Newmarket showpiece, with Poetic Flare following in the hoofprints of his sire Dawn Approach as he came out in top in a pulsating three-way finish.

Mac Swiney, winner of the Group One Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on his final appearance as a juvenile, was also under consideration for the Guineas, but Bolger ultimately decided to split his aces.

“I’m very happy with Mac Swiney,” he said.

“I’m staying at a mile with Poetic Flare. He’s come out of Newmarket well and hopefully he’ll be ready to run for Paris (French 2000 Guineas) on Sunday week.

“Mac Swiney will be running over a mile and a quarter at Leopardstown and we’ll take it from there.”

The Coolcullen handler is hoping Mac Swiney can earn himself a shot at the Cazoo Derby at Epsom, which Bolger and Manning famously won with his sire New Approach in 2008.

Mac Swiney and jockey Kevin Manning after winning at the Curragh
Mac Swiney and jockey Kevin Manning after winning at the Curragh (PA)

Although the chestnut colt’s high-profile juvenile wins in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh and at Doncaster came in soft and heavy ground, Bolger would not be concerned by quicker conditions.

“He’ll go on any ground,” the trainer added.

Mac Swiney’s biggest threat appears to be Bolshoi Ballet, who will bid to provide Aidan O’Brien with his 14th Derrinstown victory.

Subsequent Epsom heroes Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002) are among the former Ballydoyle superstars to win this key trial, as well as the brilliant stayer Yeats (2004).

Just like Galileo, High Chaparral and Yeats, Bolshoi Ballet lines up off the back of winning the Ballysax Stakes over the same course and distance four weeks ago.

Bolshoi Ballet (centre) winning the Ballysax Stakes
Bolshoi Ballet (centre) winning the Ballysax Stakes (PA)

O’Brien said: “It was always the plan to go for the Derrinstown after he won the Ballysax.

“Everything has gone well with him since and he seems to be in good form.

“We’re happy with him and looking forward to his run.”

O’Brien has a second string to his bow in Lough Derg, who won on his Dundalk debut before finishing fourth in the Ballysax, while son Donnacha saddles the sixth from the same race in Fernando Vichi and his brother Joseph runs course-and-distance winner Southern Lights.

Joseph O’Brien told Betfair: “Southern Lights is a gorgeous horse that we’ve always had high hopes for.

“We really liked his performance when he won a maiden over this course and distance last month. He is a very laid-back character and he seemed to wake up as the race progressed. It was a really pleasing performance.

“This is obviously a huge step up in class for him, but he has earned the chance to be tested in a race like this and we can’t wait to see how he measures up.”

Jessica Harrington’s Ballysax third Taipan, the Ger Lyons-trained Team Of Firsts and Bolger’s possible pacemaker Wexford Soil complete the line-up.

The Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial is preceded by two other Group Three contests in the Amethyst Stakes and the Irish 1,000 Guineas Trial.

Joseph O'Brien has a strong hand in the Amethyst Stakes
Joseph O’Brien has a strong hand in the Amethyst Stakes (PA)

The Amethyst field is headed by the Ado McGuinness-trained Bowerman and also features three runners from Joseph O’Brien’s yard in Numerian, Raise You and Snapraeterea.

“Raise You seems to have benefited from being gelded and made a winning return to action in a handicap at the Curragh last time. This is obviously a much stronger race, but he has the class to be competitive in this sort of company,” O’Brien added.

“Numerian has been a shade disappointing in his two runs this season, but he seems to be on his way back and has the form in the book to be competitive at this level.

“Snapraeterea hit the frame in a couple of Stakes races last season, but was a bit disappointing on his return to action at Leopardstown. He takes on his elders here and it is a stiff task on paper.”

The Lyons-trained Acanella bids to follow up an impressive debut success over the course and distance in the Guineas Trial, with Paddy Twomey’s Fantasy Lady and Dermot Weld’s Curragh scorer Shandra among her rivals.

Mac Swiney on course for Derrinstown return

Jim Bolger’s firm belief that he has two star colts on his hands this season could be further advertised at Leopardstown on Sunday, with Mac Swiney set to carry his hopes in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

Stablemate Poetic Flare has already won the Qipco 2000 Guineas, and the County Carlow trainer has been keen to stress he finds it hard to split the pair – a statement with which jockey Kevin Manning concurred at Newmarket on Saturday.

Speaking after the Guineas, Manning – asked to compare Mac Swiney and Poetic Flare – said: “The two of them have been working well, and I rode the two of them on the grass in two separate bits of work three weeks ago and Jim asked the question and said if both turn up (at Newmarket) which would you ride – and I said ‘I don’t know’.”

A son of Bolger’s Derby winner New Approach, Mac Swiney took Group One honours when beating One Ruler in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster in October.

Chief among his potential opposition this weekend is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Bolshoi Ballet, winner of the Ballysax Stakes on his reappearance.

The Ballysax-Derrinstown route is one familiar to O’Brien with his Derby runners – Galileo winning both races on the way to glory in the premier Classic 20 years ago, while High Chaparral did likewise 12 months later.

Bolshoi Ballet winning the Ballysax Stakes under Ryan Moore
Bolshoi Ballet winning the Ballysax Stakes under Ryan Moore (PA)

O’Brien has also entered Derby favourite High Definition, although he is thought more likely to run at Lingfield on Saturday. Chester defector Sir Lamorak is another among the possibles, which total 15 at the entry stage.

There are also 15 in the Irish 1,000 Guineas Trial, including the Ger Lyons-trained Acanella.

The Juddmonte-owned Dansili filly looked potentially smart in beating Jessica Harrington’s Climate – who could reoppose – over this course and distance last month.

The other highlight on a top-class card is the Amethyst Stakes – which features the O’Brien-trained Lancaster House, among 11 entries.

Poetic Flare is Guineas-bound after impressive Leopardstown display

Poetic Flare underlined his Classic credentials with an impressive display in the Ballylinch Stud “Red Rocks” 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown.

A son of trainer Jim Bolger’s multiple Group One winner Dawn Approach, Poetic Flare won twice from three juvenile starts last season, including a course and distance success in October’s Killavullan Stakes.

Making his first appearance since, the three-year-old was a 3-1 shot for this Listed assignment and was always travelling strongly towards the head of affairs.

Ace Aussie came from a long way back to grab the runner-up spot late on, but never threatened to lay a glove on Poet Flare, who had already quickened up smartly to seal a one-and-a-half-length victory in the hands of Kevin Manning.

Bolger was represented by his daughter, Una Manning, who said: “I’m told he could go anywhere. He (Bolger) hasn’t decided which of the Guineas, but the two of them (Poetic Flare and Mac Swiney) won’t run in the same race. The boss is very happy with them.

“He hasn’t been away anywhere this year for a gallop so he’s absolutely delighted.

“We were confident he wouldn’t have any problems handling the ground. Last year we just had to play the cards we were dealt and he had to run on soft ground, but he’s not ground dependent.

“He’s in both Guineas along with Mac Swiney. We haven’t decided yet whether he’ll go to Newmarket or the Curragh, but the two of them won’t run in the same race.”

Coral cut Poetic Flare to 20-1 from 33-1 for Newmarket on May 1, with Betfair 16-1 from 25-1.

Monday Musings: Bolger’s Bright Futurity

I remember back in May when the BHA and the more influential trainers were hoping for a resumption of racing during that month, I was thinking that because the weather can be less wintry during October and November, maybe Flat racing could extend a few weeks longer to help restore some of the losses of fixtures during the spring closure, writes Tony Stafford.

Fortunately the BHA are not so stupid, and the end of turf racing will be at Doncaster on November 7 when hopefully the Bombardier British Hopped Amber Beer November Handicap – if not simply so that the commentator can try that on for size – can be staged, unlike last year.

Last year, not only the end of season card but also the two scheduled turf meetings at Doncaster and Newbury equivalent to last weekend were washed out. The Vertem Futurity, the last UK Group 1 two-year-old race, was switched to Newcastle’s Tapeta the following Friday and won by Kameko, who went on to 2,000 Guineas success seven months later on the first Saturday after the restart.

This year’s Vertem Futurity went ahead at the normal venue. The Doncaster going, officially described as heavy and deemed too testing for Wembley, left the Ballydoyle team with a rare blank in the contest. It was won by the Jim Bolger-trained and -bred Mac Swiney and while the race didn’t have a single son (or daughter) of Galileo on hand, Mac Swiney is by Galileo’s son New Approach out of a mare by Teofilo, also by Galileo so is closely in-bred to the great champion.

Both Teofilo and New Approach were bred and raced initially by Bolger and went unbeaten through their juvenile campaigns, each winning five out of five, culminating in the Dewhurst and being awarded two-year-old champion status.

Teofilo retired after that single season, being the first juvenile champion for the sire, but New Approach went on to win the Derby at Epsom, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Champion Stakes by an overwhelming six lengths. Narrow defeats in the 2,000 Guineas and then the Irish equivalent briefly tarnished his reputation as did a sole third place in the Juddmonte, switched to Newmarket when York closed for a year. His overall record stands the closest inspection.

Not content with a track career, he was sent to stud and immediately produced Dawn Approach, yet another unbeaten juvenile champion that collected the Dewhurst as his rite of passage and then the 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes for good measure. The family has done Mr Bolger proud, just as gentleman Jim was fundamental in the early years to help along the Galileo legend.

But back to the going, and certainly Mac Swiney’s combination of speed and power through soft ground – it was barely heavy according to the times on Saturday – will serve him well when sure as night follows day he turns up for the Classics on one side of the Irish Sea or other, possibly both.

It was definitely heavy at Newbury and looking at those seven times I wager that the racecourse authorities there must be relieved they can turn their attention to the separate jumps course which will not have been watered during the dry months while racing was off, unlike the Flat strip where the recent deluges have rendered it virtually unraceable.

The least excessively slow time was the 10.22 sec above standard it took to run the second race, a six-furlong fillies’ nursery. Everything else, including the Radley and St Simon, the two Group races on the card, were almost two seconds per furlong slow, unconscionably so for Flat races. The finale, an amateur handicap, took almost 30 seconds more than standard to run a mile and a half.

With rain seemingly about all over the country it will be more interesting to see which of the remaining nine scheduled turf Flat fixtures can go ahead. Leicester (heavy) and Redcar (soft) are planned for today and are expected to survive. Then we have Catterick tomorrow (soft/heavy), Nottingham Wednesday (soft), and Newmarket on Friday and Saturday for the season finale again on soft ground. Next week Redcar and Nottingham on Wednesday and Thursday respectively and that Doncaster date on Saturday week bring matters to a damp conclusion.

Last weekend featured, as ever, three of only 13 Group 1 juvenile races to be run all year in Europe. Ireland’s three are run earlier than the five each of the UK and France. This year the 6f Phoenix Stakes in August and both the Moyglare and National Stakes the following month were staged on decent ground and run in acceptable times.

The first four juvenile Group 1 races in England were all staged at Newmarket. The Royal Lodge, Middle Park and Cheveley Park are the triple centre-pieces of Future Champions Day and the Rowley Mile on that September afternoon was blessed with fastish ground and quick times. It was also satisfactory for the Dewhurst won by St Mark’s Basilica early this month. Interestingly, before their Group 1 victories, both colts had run in the National Stakes behind Thunder Moon, St Mark’s Basilica finishing third and Mac Swiney eighth. Immediately before that, they each won on the same card again at the Curragh, the O’Brien colt in a maiden and Mac Swiney as a 28-1 shocker in a Group 2.

But it’s the French who are most often a hostage to fortune, seeing that their only pre-October Group 1 race is the Prix Morny close to the end of the Deauville summer festival. Wesley Ward and Frankie Dettori won that this year with the filly Campanelle and, while the ground was officially soft, the winning time of only a second slower than standard argues with that.

For the remainder, there are two races on Arc Day, the Jean-Luc Lagardere over 7f for colts and fillies, and the one-mile Marcel Boussac for fillies only. Heavy was the designation, and times of plus 3.49 and 5.73 suggests the description may be a shade exaggerated. When you get to heavy, after that, there’s probably only treacle. Of the year’s last two G1 races, one is the Criterium International, a race I remember fondly because of French Fifteen. That, over a mile, is the shorter while the Criterium de Saint-Cloud is a gut-busting 10 furlongs.

They were run on the Paris track on Saturday and heavy really did mean heavy. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Van Gogh, by American Pharoah, was an emphatic four-length winner but took 10.71 sec longer than he normally should have done. The Mark Johnston-trained Gear Up, making it three wins in four starts, relished the ground and with a show of great determination saw off a challenging quintet of would-be top-level winners at 27-1 under James Doyle. His time was more than 18 seconds slower than standard.

That race’s scheduled off time was only five minutes after the Vertem Futurity and you could call it an acceptable few minutes in the 78-year life of Jim Bolger as Gear Up, by Teofilo, was also bred by the trainer/breeder. The dam Gearanai, by Toccet, was of little account in racing terms but has been a brilliant mate for Teofilo producing four decent winners as well as another by New Approach. Sold as a yearling for €52,000 at Goffs just over a year ago, Gear Up has brought fantastic enjoyment to Teme Valley 2 and the Johnstons.

Having collected the final French juvenile Group 1 race of the year, Mark also had the last word by winning not only France’s final Group 1 of any age but also Europe’s concluding Group 1 of all at Longchamp yesterday. His three-year-old, Subjectivist, who faded into seventh behind Galileo Chrome after setting the pace in what is turning out to have been a high-quality St Leger, kept going to the finish to win the Prix Royal-Oak against his elders. Tony Mullins’ mare Princess Zoe, attempting to follow her Prix Du Cadran win over the Arc weekend, could get no nearer than fourth over the half-mile shorter trip.

*

The ground was pretty slow too for both Cheltenham on Saturday and Aintree yesterday as the jumps season finally got into its stride. I also watched one early race at Hexham where 14 set off for a 14-runner handicap hurdle and with half a mile to go basically two were galloping, one plodding and the rest crying enough. It was heavy for much of last winter and trainers will be dreading similar conditions this winter having had the last season so cruelly ended before Aintree and the other important spring fixtures could be concluded.

Aintree yesterday gave a couple of indications that the Skelton team was getting into full stride. Their summer activity, a feature of Dan’s early training career, is almost negligible in comparison nowadays, but the smart horses are coming out now. Two from yesterday (from a sample of 13 winners during an accelerating two-week period) that advertised the team’s well-being and the trainer’s skill, were debutant Real Stone, a comfortable 50-1 winner of the competitive maiden hurdle which opened the card and bumper winner Elle Est Belle, also a newcomer who swamped previous winner Windswept Girl in the finale.

She is a daughter of Fame And Glory, whose early demise – he was just 11 having raced until six winning 14 times – was such a loss to Coolmore’s jump stallions. After this stylish win Elle Est Belle would be an early contender for the Cheltenham and Aintree Festival bumpers if Dan and owner Mrs Suzanne Lawrence can wait that long.

It was a frustrating few days for the Geegeez.co.uk colours as Windswept Girl’s stable-companion Coquelicot was a beaten favourite at Fontwell, where her jumping on hurdles debut was open to a deal of improvement. Both talented females carry high hopes into their second season with Anthony Honeyball and, don’t worry Matt and co, I reckon you have days of success and enjoyment to look forward to.

Mac Swiney swoops for Vertem Futurity Trophy glory

Mac Swiney was a tenacious winner of the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.

Jim Bolger’s challenger, a Group Two winner on soft ground at the Curragh in August, had since managed only eighth of 10 on a quicker surface over the same course and distance in the National Stakes.

But he again revelled in testing conditions as the rain set in on Town Moor, with the 12-1 shot challenging last under Kevin Manning to overhaul eventual third Baradar and hold off 6-4 favourite One Ruler in the final furlong, scoring by three-quarters of a length.

Following a race in which Dewhurst runner-up Wembley was a significant late withdrawal on account of the ground, Paddy Power and Betfair responded by halving Mac Swiney’s odds for next year’s Derby to 20-1 from 40-1.

Manning, who was riding his first Group One winner in Britain since Pleascach won the Yorkshire Oaks in 2015, said: “He’s done all his running over seven furlongs, but I always thought the further he went the better he’d be.

“He was a little slowly away, but that enabled me to get a position. There was a bit of scrimmagin,g but he was able to hold his corner. He was very switched off and very relaxed.

“He’s got a great attitude and didn’t fight me through the race, but at the business end he’s there when you want him.

“I imagine he’ll start off in one of the Guineas, but I think he’s a type that the better the race the better he’ll go, as he can cruise at good gear and he’s probably got more pace than I give him credit for.

“I think he’s a horse that when he steps up in trip you can only see the best of him as a three-year-old.”

Bolger turns 79 on Christmas Day, but once again has proved he can still come up with the goods on the big days.

Manning said: “It’s great to be back winning Group Ones, we’ve had some wonderful years together and we’ve been placed in this race before, so this is another box ticked.”

The colt is named after the Irish playwright and politician Terence Macswiney, who died 100 years ago on October 25, 1920 in Brixton prison on hunger strike having been placed there charged with sedition.

Manning said: “Jim is very good at naming his horses and this one is very well named, it’s 100 years tomorrow that he died.

“Jim didn’t come because of all the rigmarole that goes with it. I know I can’t mix with the other jockeys for 14 days when I get back, but that’s the way it is, it has to be done.

Mac Swiney relished the stamina test and will be aimed at the Derby
Mac Swiney relished the stamina test and will be aimed at the Derby (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I thought this lad was worth doing it for. He’d beaten the horse that was the favourite (Wembley) in his maiden and the horse who won the Group One in France (Van Gogh) was behind him at the Curragh, so the form stacked up.”

Bolger told Sky Sports Racing: “I was hoping he could win, he’s been improving steadily.

“He’d have preferred better ground, but he got through that today and he did it really well.

“I’ve been regarding him as my Derby horse since he first went to the races and after today that is not about to change.

“I must have known he was good back in January when I named him Mac Swiney, it wouldn’t have been good for me or anyone around here to name a horse after a Cork man if he wasn’t very good.

“He’s one of our outstanding patriots and I’m thrilled for his memory that this fellow was able to go back to England 100 years after his death and win like he did.”

All in all it was a profitable day for Bolger: “It’s nice to have bred him, I also bred the Group One winner in France trained by Mark Johnston (Gear Up). I couldn’t do things like this without brilliant staff, both on the farm and in the training centre.”